Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Kelly McParland
Page: A10


There's always been something a bit odd about the great marijuana
legalization crusade. Supporters, eager to avoid being seen as a bunch
of frustrated pot-heads who just wanted easier access, put forward
solid, practical arguments.

They pointed out that the war against drugs wasn't working: anyone
could see that. People who wanted pot would find a way to get it, no
matter how illegal it might be. Police time was wasted chasing kids
with a few grams of marijuana, and branding young people as criminals
for a bit of pot was a crime in itself. Criminalization just paved the
way for organized crime to peddle the stuff to kids, with no controls
and huge profits. It made no sense.

Legalization, on the other hand, would solve - or at least lessen -
these problems. Controlled sales would drive the crooks from the
business. Standards and quality could be regulated and controlled.
Authorities would be able to keep pot out of the hands of kids (which
is important because, while adult brains may not be easily fried,
young people can do serious damage to themselves with pot usage).
Police could spend their time on more productive activities. Parents
wouldn't have to worry about Johnny doing drug deals in the back
corner of the school-yard, or coming home all red-eyed and giddy.

Oh, and the government could make bags of money off it, though that
wasn't the main intent of course. The main intent was health and
safety. And there was a libertarian argument as well: if adults wanted
to add pot to their list of vices - smoking, drinking, whatever - who
was the government to interfere?

So Justin Trudeau confessed that, sure, he'd smoked pot, and if we
made him prime minister, he'd legalize it for everyone. The dark old
days would be over. Adults could be adults.

Last Thursday the Liberals kept their promise and tabled their pot
bill. Yet somehow it's less than reassuring. It's vague on everything.
Packaging, pricing, age restrictions, taxing, quantities, enforcement
… a lot of the decisions have been left to the provinces. Hurrah! A
federal pot law! Now let's hope the 10 premiers, and their successors,
make it a good one!

If the intent was to control sales and provide a uniform, regulated
market, how do you do that with 10 provinces all making their own
decisions on all the key aspects? If Manitoba has liberal rules, and
Ontario stiff ones, is anyone in doubt that illicit traffic across the
Manitoba/Ontario border will suddenly increase? And why would anyone
think the provinces will responsibly address the issue of marijuana
sales when they have failed so miserably to adopt a sensible approach
to cross-border beer and wine sales?

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould asserted that if any of the
provinces act unfairly, customers can always turn to the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms. Great, that's just what we need, a new avalanche
of rights complaints jamming courts that are already grossly
overburdened, because someone in Broken Arm, Sask., likes the pot laws
in Halifax, N.S., more.

If the point of legalization was to solve major problems, it seems to
have been lost in the process. The Liberals plan stringent penalties
for sales to minors: up to 14 years in jail for selling pot to anyone
under 18. This will have the same effect as the war on drugs, i.e.
feed an illicit trade and provide the lure of big profits for
organized crime. Either that, or the courts will conclude the
penalties don't match the offence and ignore them, making access for
the young easier. How is it that the same people who blithely declare
that people who want drugs will always get drugs, now think strict age
laws will act as a deterrent?

The Liberal bill will do nothing to stem the broader drug trade, which
will maintain the flood of cocaine, heroin and opioids. The tunnels
under the U.S.'s southern frontier, the mass graves in Mexican border
towns, the corruption and killing, will not be driven from business
because Canada now has retail pot stores on main street (located a
reasonable distance from schools on the foolish notion that this will
somehow keep pot from the kids). Vancouver's downtown east side won't
be any more pleasant, or littered with fewer discarded needles.

Meanwhile, news pages are filled with reports on the big profits pot
sales will bring. A wave of mergers and acquisitions is predicted as
small players get swallowed up and "Big Marijuana" emerges, just as
has happened with tobacco and alcohol. Lobbying is already underway to
ensure advertisers have a free hand to lure customers. "If they don't
allow any kind of advertising, the problem is the black market will
continue to advertise and continue to put Canadians at risk,"
Sebastien St. Louis, CEO of Hydropothecary Corp., a licensed producer
of medical marijuana, told the Financial Post. The good news for Pot
Inc. is that the Liberals have not demanded plain white packaging,
which would have ruined "brand awareness" and driven customers to the
black market (which we all thought was going to be eradicated, didn't

So what was the point of it all? The criminals won't go away, underage
smokers will still find a way to get their hands on the drug,
authorities will still have their hands full policing and enforcing it
all, and Canadians will have a whole new bureaucratic entity to reckon
with, run jointly by Ottawa and disparate provinces run by governments
of varying stripe and conflicting priorities.

The only obvious advantage is this: adults who already smoked pot will
find it slightly less inconvenient to get their supply, and
governments will get a new source of tax revenue. Which is all this
was ever really about anyway, folks.
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